An endlessly fascinating memoir by a profoundly courageous writer.
Novelist and cultural critic Elliott (My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up, 2006, etc.) has plumbed his difficult life for his novels and short stories. A runaway at age 13, following his mother’s death, he spent years in group homes around Chicago, engaging in petty crimes and developing addictions to heroin and other narcotics, rather than stay with his violence-prone sadistic father. As he began his latest book, Elliott was just resuming a daily regimen of Adderall ingestion. Off the drug, he lost the focus to write anything. Back on it and experimenting with means of enhancing its amphetamine-like effects, his mind still raced, but he was better able to channel his energies into writing down his rapid-fire thoughts. His new book, he decided, would be about a murder trial getting underway in San Francisco, where he had settled after a restless post-adolescence period. In the spring of 2007, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Hans Reiser was accused of killing his Russian-born wife Nina, whose body had yet to be found. The author's interest in the case was sparked by a confession of Reiser's best friend Sean Sturgeon, with whom Nina had an affair. The confession reminded Elliott of his father's odd story that he killed a man who had publicly humiliated him the year before Elliott was born. Despite the luridness of the subject matter, the author creates a refined, beautiful work of art. His themes—seemingly crime, murder, drugs and sadomasochistic sex—actually encapsulate the nature of truth, self, love and memory, and the limits of art to get at them all.
Deserves a place on the shelf next to such classics of uninhibited American introspection as On the Road and A Fan’s Notes.